Why E-Books Are Not MP3s

One of the things I get asked a lot is “I bought the print version of your book; can I get the e-book version for free?”

I get the thinking behind this. Companies are now regularly offering free MP3s when you buy a CD. Pick up a DVD or Blu-Ray movie and you also often get the digital version. Amazon also offers reduced price audiobooks and reduced price or free Kindle books when you buy a print book (Barnes & Noble, interestingly, doesn’t).

On the face of it, it makes sense. Hey, I get a free digital movie or album when I get the firmware; why can’t I get a free e-book? Well, there are a couple things going on, and some things specific to my books, which are not immediately obvious. So I’ll try to explain them here so I have something to point at when I get this question in the future.

First off, Amazon, because it is a huge company and owns the Kindle store and Audible.com, can do things like offer a free or reduced-price Kindle book or audiobook when you buy the print version. At the scale they operate, they can afford to make tiny amounts or even lose tiny amounts if it means they bring in more business. It’s telling that Barnes & Noble doesn’t offer free e-books with purchase (at least not as far as I could tell from a quick scan of the store and some of their most popular books, and I haven’t seen that deal offered to NOOK store publishers as I have on the Kindle store).

But my print books are published through Sofawolf and FurPlanet; my e-books are created and published by me. Neither one of us has the business model and volume that Amazon does, where we can afford to give away products whose revenue we depend on just for the promise of increased future business.

And the second point that people often overlook is that e-books are not the same as MP3s or digital movies. Creating an e-book is not as easy as pushing a button in InDesign and coming up with a fully formatted e-book. It usually takes me about ten hours of work to put together an e-book (in both Kindle and ePub editions), in addition to which I pay the artists separately for the license to the digital work. That money isn’t covered by the print publishers. On top of that, I stay of top of the stores and the books, make corrections when needed, respond when people have issues with them, and so on.

The e-book I made for Red Devil includes the fonts used in the print version to set off the sections. I had to learn how to embed fonts in e-books and do a not-insignificant amount of coding to get them to work. It makes for a better e-book, I think, and it was worth the work. It was also worth it to pay Rukis the additional licensing to be allowed to use the images in the e-book. I hope you guys think so, too.

Share Button
This entry was posted in Books, E-books. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why E-Books Are Not MP3s

  1. Altivo says:

    Yes, this makes sense in your case. It does not make sense for much of mainstream publishing, however, where the ebook and print book are produced and distributed by the same corporation. The mainstream publishers are fighting the same fruitless battle that the music industry fought against MP3 format for so long. For them, the cost of producing the ebook once they have the print book designed and ready is quite minimal, yet they continue to ask very high prices for the ebook (which amounts to significantly more profit for them, and rarely for the author as I understand it, since she/he gets the same or a smaller royalty on the ebook copy sold.) I often seem mainstream ebooks priced at just one dollar less than a printed book that cost ten times as much to produce and distribute. In one case, I’ve seen a publisher offering only 1 cent off the price of the paper printed copy. This is irrational and greedy.

    You have a different situation and certainly should not be expected to give away the ebook under those circumstances. It should be priced lower than the print edition, though, simply because production and distribution costs are much less. That doesn’t mean “free” or that you have to accept less for your time and effort.

  2. Antonella says:

    I share your position on this. And I think it is important to help you writers to make some money. Many of you share also stories for free (thank you for ”Camouflage”!)an d that’s already generous. We readers don’t want an author stop writing for lack of funds, do we?

    But are you in favor of offering more ebook formats at the same price, for ex. PDF and Kindle? I like that because I trust my computer and I don’t trust my Kindle or amazon ;-).